Whichever way you look at it, Truth makes a statement, from the friendly doorman in top hat and tails on the sidewalk showing you to a table or managing the queues on holidays and high days to the steampunk barista bar. But most of all David Donde wants to make a statement about the coffee. David said he thought he knew about good coffee until he went to his brother’s wedding in New Zealand in 1999.
New Zealand was and is about 15 years ahead of South Africa on the coffee scene. Café Lafarre was his inspiration and he bought the book by David Schomer (David Schomer, Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques, 1996) and read as much as he could. Back in South Africa he and his wife bought the Post House in Greyton. He couldn’t get decent coffee delivered more than once a month. Then one of his suppliers offered to sell him a small (1kg) roasting machine. The Post House was ideal in that it was empty in the week and full on the weekends. That meant that he could experiment to his heart’s content in the week in solitude and perhaps try out some new roasts on clients on the weekend. Soon The Posthouse had a reputation for being the place to get great coffee. The second plus was that there was nobody to teach him and so he had to learn the hard way – experiment, taste and experiment again.
In 2006 he started SCASA – the Specialist Coffee Association of South Africa with John Lear and he has brought the World Barista Championships to South Africa.
He considers Truth to be primarily a roaster and they do about five tons a month. They cup each and every roast to make sure of the quality before releasing it. Each roast is scored. They want to be, and believe they are, pegged against the best in the world.
In sourcing his beans he believes 99% in a relationship model and works with matchmakers as opposed to brokers. He travels extensively, albeit reluctantly, so that he knows what is happening on the ground. Truth is anti the labels of Fairtrade and Organic. Although it is not the concepts he is against, but rather the lip-service he feels that is paid with very little discernible difference made in the lives of the farmers themselves.
When Starbucks comes to South Africa they will apparently DISCOUNT their coffee from their usual R90 per cup to R45. David feels that good coffee should cost more and that the good thing about Starbucks coming in is that the general price of coffee will rise. Truth is one of the more expensive cups of coffee in town and he feels it is still a bargain. Low prices mean low quality beans, low salaries to baristas and low levels of training. Coffee prices must go up, they are imported and the exchange rate plays a huge role - if the client wants a decent cup, they will have to start paying more. At least at Truth they can do it in style.